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Defense or Development ¿

Uzair Rizvi for BeyondHeadlines

Nuclear status of a country often conjures up an image of invincibility and breeds a sense of complacence.

India ranks 10th (2010) in the list of major spenders on defence. India’s defence expenditure is 2.6% of its GDP. Its world ranking in United Nations Development Program’s Human Development Index is 119 out of 168 countries. Clearly, military might is not helping in economic advancement.

It is always argued that funding is based on ‘Militarization’ rather than being spending on development of a country. But the Other side argues that security is a legitimate issue and spending on that cannot be scaled back because of our strategic location in South Asia and the geopolitcs.

The aim of military spending should be to improve the strategic and security environment for the benefit of citizen and state, and is therefore not contrary to the aim of social spending. Focusing in developing indigenous defence system, though it would require some long term investment, plan is also needed rather than relying on arms deal.

Table shows the head wise Basic plan expenditure on development in India during 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 (indiabudget.nic.in)

Development cost in Rs. (crores)

2009-2010                          2010-2011

1-Education                                       26,800                                        31,045

2-Health and Welfare                      19,534                                        22,500

3-Agriculture                                     7,018                                          8,280

4-Employment                                    760                                             965

5-Empowerement                            2,500                                         4,500

__________________________________________________________________________

Development Expenditure           56,612                                        67,290

__________________________________________________________________________

Defence Expenditure                     1, 41,703                                     1, 47,344

If the trend continues to grow at this pace India’s defence budget will cross over $80 billion (3, 20,000 crore) approximately by 2015. We can simply transfer the money we now spend on defence to developmental projects instead. Alternately, we can grow our development investment faster than defence squandering, or cut back on defence spending gradually. This will help us in achieving a better development to defence ratio and the spending can be balanced.

An important question to consider is whether disbursement for development must necessarily come from defence, or whether other sources can be tapped. India’s fiscal deficit is already very high, so additional borrowing would not be a healthy option; the money really has to come from within the enduring quantum of budget through changes in its allocation. Defence spending is the largest part of our discretionary expenditure, so it is the most obvious place to look.

India has already long passed the minimum threshold for development and is way ahead of other developed nuclear powers. Budgeting for development, therefore, really is a trade-off between guns and livelihoods.

The Government bears the responsibility for determining the spending priorities and they should do it correctly. India’s 119th position in the HDI is a big concern when the economy is growing in great strides.

One might say, it is DEFENCIBLE. However, I am not particularly comfortable around guns.

Uzair is a student at Lucknow University. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect BH’s editorial policy.

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